A standard failure?

Recent allegations underscore the need to adopt a stronger University ethics policy.

In an effort to bring transparency to relationships between private industry and medical academia, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, launched an investigation into the activities of several prominent researchers, including Dr. David Polly of the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Department of Orthopedic Surgery. According to information gathered by GrassleyâÄôs staff, Polly received $1.2 million from leading technology manufacturer Medtronic between 2003 and 2007 . Grassley alleges severe conflict of interest breaches and highlights the failures of a medical ethics policy that allowed Polly to operate as primary investigator in a study of Medtronic bone growth technology and to supposedly disclose, contrary to a University conflict review and committee stipulation, sensitive research findings to Medtronic before they were made public. Under federal regulations , it is the UniversityâÄôs responsibility to manage faculty conflicts of interest. But Polly claims to have fully complied with the UniversityâÄôs disclosure process, which simply required him to reveal the private financial relationship in excess of $1 million as âÄúin excess of $10,000,âÄù and eventually found PollyâÄôs conflict âÄúmanageable.âÄù Grassley criticized the disclosure limit in a July letter to President Bruininks: âÄúIt is unclear to me how [University officials] are able to make proper assessments of research conflicts without considering the level of financial interest …âÄù While the Office of General Counsel compiles a response to GrassleyâÄôs letter under extended deadline , the University Medical School drags its feet on desperately needed medical ethics reform. Whatever the University response, that a researcher receiving more than $1 million from related private industry was found to have a âÄúmanageableâÄù conflict of interest level is beyond absurd. To protect the integrity of students, faculty and research, the University must ensure that the new ethics standards are thorough enough to prevent such seemingly clear failures.